Wise Health Care Consumer Month

Did you know that February is wise health care consumer month?  While it seems short-sighted to reduce such an important endeavor to just one month, declaring February “the” consumer month is a valuable opportunity to spell out some ways in which informed action can sustain our health.  So, with the help of Dr. Russ Greenfield, a leading wellness expert, let’s take February as an example of the benefits a consumer-aware month can bring.

Give me an F.  Flu vaccine.  For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your flu shot there’s still time; keep in mind that the annual flu shot offers protection not only against seasonal flu but also against H1N1, the type of flu that caused a deadly pandemic in 2009.  The flu vaccine can be administered intra-nasally as well as by shot.  Most varieties of the vaccine no longer contain even the smallest amount of mercury, but for those who want to avoid any mercury at all, all you need to do is ask—mercury-free versions are readily available.  Even though the ideal time for a vaccine is September or October, it can still offer some protection now.  (Flu vaccines, while not perfect, are at least 60% effective.)  Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the appropriateness of a vaccine for you.

Give me an E.  Exercise.  From a preventive standpoint, few things are as important as exercise.  Recommendations range widely as to what you should be doing and for how long, but a brisk daily 15-minute walk has clear health benefits and is something we can all fit into our routine.

Give me a B.  Bedtime.  The goal should be a minimum of seven hours of nightly sleep.  Try to get to bed and to rise at the same time each day, even on weekends.  “Set the stage” for bedtime by turning down lights and electronics half an hour before closing your eyes for sleep.

Give me an R.  Resistant organisms.  There are antibiotic-resistant organisms out there, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).  Don’t be afraid, but be aware that the overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of resistant organisms.  The government allowing antibiotics in animal feed is also contributing to microbial resistance.

Give me a U.  UVA/UVB.   Be sure to protect against damaging exposure to the sun’s rays by applying sunscreen appropriately, donning sunglasses, and wearing sun-protective clothing.  Ask your doctor about taking supplemental Vitamin D to help “reclaim” some of the Vitamin D that normally is created with sun exposure.

Give me an A.  Allergies (hay fever).  The most effective way to manage hay fever is to avoid exposure to the allergens in the first place.  Using HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters in the home can help.  Nasal irrigation with sterile water—not tap water—can also be useful.

Give me another R.  Relax.  While everyone has stress, few manage it adequately, with the result being increased inflammation in the body and worsening mood.  Choose positive modes of relaxation—laughter, meditation, communion with people you care about—rather than unhealthy measures such as turning to alcohol.

Make a commitment to taking care of yourself.  Everyone needs alone time to be quiet, create, and get inspired.  Being good to yourself is self-sustaining, not selfish.